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Microsoft Aims To Extend Cloud Reach with Cloud OS Network

Microsoft today is taking a step forward to advance its Windows Azure infrastructure by launching its new Cloud OS Network. The company now has 25 global partners that will offer cloud services that are effectively compatible with Windows Azure and the latest combination of Windows Server and System Center running in customers' datacenters.

The Cloud OS Network will let organizations create hybrid clouds by extending their Windows Server datacenters to Windows Azure and/or any of Microsoft's Cloud OS Network providers. When Microsoft introduced the Cloud OS term last year upon the release of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, many criticized it as the company jumping into the latest buzzword.

Microsoft indeed was laying the groundwork by positioning Windows Server and System Server as a platform that would let IT managers add capacity to their datacenters by bridging their infrastructures to the public cloud to create a hybrid cloud. But the pieces of Cloud OS weren't there at the time.

This year Microsoft has made some steady progress with the release of Windows Azure Infrastructure Services and the R2 upgrades to Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012. With a major upgrade to Hyper-V, observers said Microsoft finally had a competitive virtual machine.

Another key component Microsoft added with the October R2 wave was the Windows Azure Pack, a free download that adds Windows Azure functionality to Windows Server by providing a self-service portal for managing instances and various services including virtual machines, Web sites and platform scaling.

By launching the Cloud OS Network, Microsoft is extending the scale and reach of this cloud platform. With these 25 new partners, the Cloud OS Network adds 425 datacenters in 90 markets around the world that will manage over 2.4 million servers and 3 million customers, according to Microsoft.

The new partners include Alog, Aruba S.p.A., Capgemini, Capita IT Services, CGI, CSC, Dimension Data, DorukNet, Fujitsu Finland Oy., Fujitsu Ltd., iWeb, Lenovo, NTTX, Outsourcery,, Revera, SingTel, Sogeti, TeleComputing, Tieto, Triple C Cloud Computing, T-Systems, VTC Digilink and Wortmann AG. 

Piers Linney co-CEO of U.K.-based Outsourcery told me that the Windows Azure Pack indeed "provides one pane of glass" between a customer datacenter, Windows Azure and his company's Windows Server-based cloud hosting service. Improvements in network infrastructure will provide smoother migrations among the three (Outsourcery also sells Windows Azure from Microsoft to supplement infrastructure it offers).

Microsoft has already invested substantially in its own Windows Azure infrastructure, and extending the same platform to partners gives the company's hybrid cloud strategy much more substance. For example companies in the U.K. have data sovereignty issues with certain information; hence it has to reside on its soil. Yet in cases where that's not an issue, it can supplement its services with Microsoft's new Windows Azure Backup Services.

Linney said he can also provide turnkey services that Microsoft can't such as Office 365 and Lync while offering a mixture of its own cloud hosting and Windows Azure. "We will increasingly create hybrid solutions for all three [customer datacenters, its service provider cloud and Windows Azure] but the solution includes different elements,"Linney said. "Typically we sell Office 365, our own service provider solution, and we integrate them with Azure. Different solutions require different infrastructures and different designs."

The thinking is there's enough for everyone and it gives customers more options. On the one hand it puts Microsoft in competition with these providers but it's no different than the numerous third-party SharePoint and Exchange providers that compete with Office 365, or for that matter Microsoft offering Surface tablets that compete with its longtime OEM partners.

This concept of offering a global service and augmenting it with hosting partners is hardly unique. It's the same model VMware has employed with its hybrid cloud service bringing partners into the fold. And the OpenStack camp supported by IBM, HP, Rackspace and numerous others has a similar model.

The race by all these camps looking to catch up with Amazon Web Services will be to gain scale and convince IT that they have choice and will not be locked into any one provider. For Microsoft's Cloud OS Network to succeed, it will need many more partners. Microsoft said that's in the works.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 12/12/2013 at 2:15 PM


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